Heart-warming news from Sudan: the spirit of international brotherhood lives on. The Khartoum regime has found a fitting way to thank its great friend, Russia, for years of solidarity at the UN. Sudan has signed a deal with nine Russian mining companies with the promise of huge reserves of gold, copper, zinc, chrome and iron.
And in preparation for the Russians' arrival, the Sudanese regime has used its time-honored strategy to clear the area of local people who might want a share of the nation's bounty. Local proxies are doing the regime's work for it in Darfur, with one well-armed ethnic Arab group killing another. As a result, hundreds are dead and the UN estimates 100,000 have fled the area. An estimated 150 villages have been burned, and witnesses report seeing aerial bombardments by the Sudanese armed forces. Their tactics include shooting at poor local people who are trying to work more than 4,000 gold mines in their modest fashion, by hand. 60,000 such workers fled in a matter of days when the violence started at the beginning of January.
It is convenient for Khartoum that outsiders have accepted their categorization of the violence as the product of ancient ethnic hatreds. Diplomats in particular heave a sigh of relief at this description because it removes any need for a political solution. Moral equivalence flourishes when the international community can shrug in resignation at the prospect of tribes senselessly killing each other.
The world accepted the same nonsense in Bosnia, preferring not to confront the genocidal ideology of the Yugoslav devil-they-knew, Milosevic.
The Russian deal comes at an auspicious moment for the Moscow-Khartoum pact. For 10 years Sudan's ruling Islamist regime has been waging a campaign of ethnic cleansing against the mainly non-Arab groups in Darfur. Although the conflict slipped from the headlines years ago, the killing, rape and looting has continued. Even the local party stooges in the form of the Darfur Regional Authority have admitted at least four million of the six million people who live in Darfur have been "displaced," a euphemism for "forced to flee in terror."
Ever since Khartoum began its ethnic cleansing against Darfur, Russia has stood shoulder to shoulder with it at the UN. When others on the Security Council were fretting about racially-based ethnic cleansing in Sudan, Moscow kept the faith with its authoritarian comrades in Khartoum.
Now comes its reward. Like China, Sudan's other unquestioning ally, there will be no questions asked, no environmental impact assessment, and little benefit for the local community. Meanwhile, the long-suffering people of Darfur will mark their tenth anniversary in refugee camps, wondering what they have to do to be heard by a world that professes to care about human rights.